Madurai-based cultural troupes have lookalikes of DMK leader M.K. Stalin’s actor-son Udayanidhi Stalin and several young actors too.

A. Kasim (62) is popularly known as Kalaignar Bhai. An ardent supporter of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M. Karunanidhi, Mr. Kasim had attended several of his campaign meetings as a youngster.

Thirteen years ago, when an artiste who was to dress up like the DMK chief and campaign for the party did not turn up at the venue, the organisers asked Mr. Kasim to fill in the gap due to his uncanny resemblance to Mr. Karunanidhi. Since then, he is much in demand among the party cadres.

“I love travelling and meeting people. Taking part in political rallies gives me a chance to do that. I had no difficulty in mimicking the DMK leader because I had attended many of his campaign meetings,” says Mr. Kasim, who is a dealer in incense sticks. “I cannot survive by just being a lookalike artiste. We get paid between Rs.2,000 and Rs.4,000 for performing in marriages and temple festivals, but the agents take their share before handing us the money,” he adds.

In tune with the time, city-based cultural troupes have lookalikes of DMK leader M.K. Stalin’s actor-son Udayanidhi Stalin and several young actors too.

“The kind of affection people shower on us is unbelievable. When I visit villages dressed up like All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder and former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, people in every house welcome me with aarathi,” says 42-year-old K.S. Batcha Sheik, who takes five minutes to transform into MGR, and actors Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan or Ajith.

“On one occasion, when I was campaigning near Peravoorani, an entire village was upset when I did not visit them. They treat me as if MGR has come back alive,” he recalls.

Though these artistes enjoy meeting and greeting people, they become exhausted at the end of political campaigns. “Some of our campaigns start at 9 a.m. We accompany the cadres in autos and we keep seeking votes till 10 p.m. We get only half an hour break in between,” Mr. Sheik says.

“Rajni” Mani, a government servant, who transforms into Rajnikant and Vijayakant during temple festivals and election campaigns, says, “Political campaigns are really tiresome. We don’t get paid at all for campaigns. They simply give us money for our travel expenses. This is why I perform only at temple festivals.”

“Ten years back, people really enjoyed our performances. Today, when I start dancing for the songs of Sivaji Ganesan or MGR at temple festivals, we see people walking away. They enjoy obscene performances staged by a few groups,” rues Mr. Sheik.

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